Peter Pan at Pittsburgh Musical Theater | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Peter Pan at Pittsburgh Musical Theater

The show believes in itself so completely that it's impossible not to be charmed

Peter Pan at Pittsburgh Musical Theater
Photo courtesy of Rockhan Photography
From left to right: Jillian Ferguson, Brecken Farrell, Michelle Coben and Benjamin Godley-Fisher in Pittsburgh Musical Theater's Peter Pan

There's something to be said for charm, as demonstrated by Pittsburgh Musical Theater's production of Peter Pan.

This 1954 Broadway adaptation of J.M. Barrie's 1904 play, with music by Mark Charlap and Jule Styne and lyrics by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Carolyn Leigh, is such a slight thing, built on whimsy and threatening to evaporate at any moment. The story? Well, surely you know it's about a boy who refuses to grow up. He lives in Neverland with a group of orphaned boys as well as a band of pirates, led by Captain Hook and a tribe of Indians. (That is, Native Americans as imagined by a British playwright in 1904.) The plot is Peter's skirmishes with the Indians and the pirates ... it's a lot like recess at an elementary-school playground.

But it's hard to dismiss Peter Pan. The show believes in itself so completely, again and again sounding its theme of childhood, innocence and an almost blinding optimism, that it's impossible not to be charmed.

Indeed, for the first act, anyway, the PMT production directed by Michael Licata is about as charming as Barrie would have hoped. A large, sprightly cast runs through the scenes and songs with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Michelle Coben, as Peter, possesses a strong, brightly toned voice bringing a great deal of enjoyment to her numbers. (And that she does so in what is possibly the ugliest wig I've ever seen onstage just makes it more amazing.) Todd Nonn's set manages to create a sense of place, and there's a highly compelling dance number for the Indians, choreographed by Lisa Elliot and led by Victoria Buchtan as Tiger Lily. And just when all the cutesy-wutesy kiddie stuff threatens to choke you, a very funny Tim Hartman shows up playing Captain Hook as a cross between Paul Lynde, Tallulah Bankhead and Beyoncé.

The production does go off the rails a bit in the second act; the technical demands overwhelm the company, and the unknown-to-me adapted version of the script the company is using bogs down in over-explanation.

But that doesn't matter. For most of the night, you're in for a lot of charm.

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